Protests broke out in Aba County in Sichuan after police reportedly beat a Tibetan man who had set himself on fire in protest against Beijing’s policies in Tibet. According to some reports, police fired on the crowd and at least one was killed. From the New York Times:
It appeared that at least two people had been hit by gunfire, and one of those might have been killed, said Kate Saunders, a spokeswoman for International Campaign for Tibet, which is based in Washington. Ms. Saunders said the group had spoken to at least two sources.
Another group, Free Tibet, said it had confirmed reports that a Tibetan woman was shot. There were unconfirmed reports that many others were also hit, said Stephanie Brigden, the director of the group, which is based in London. Security officials in the area could not be reached for comment on Saturday night.
The violence took place in the town of Aba, known in Tibetan as Ngaba, a focal point for protests against Chinese rule and the scene of civilian deaths during a widespread Tibetan uprising in 2008. Since then, it has been the site of at least 11 self-immolations, some of them fatal. Those setting themselves on fire have mainly been monks, nuns or former members of the clergy. The monks in Aba who set themselves on fire all come from the Kirti Monastery, where anger has grown over Chinese repression of religious practices.
The self-immolation on Saturday was the 16th since March 2011, when Phuntsog, a monk at Kirti, set himself on fire and died. The wave of self-immolations in the past year was preceded by that of one monk from Kirti in the spring of 2009. In total, at least 12 Tibetans have died through self-immolation since 2009, if the death on Saturday is confirmed. Scholars of modern Tibet say the self-immolations represent a new and disturbing protest strategy among the clergy.
Woeser, a Beijing-based Tibetan poet and activist, posted accounts of the unrest on Twitter that were similar to those reported by the groups.
“A young Tibetan person self-immolated … the local area has erupted in public protests and marches, and they have been met with military police fire and suppression. There are Tibetan casualties,” she wrote. Like some Tibetans, Woeser uses just one name.
The claims could not be independently confirmed. Calls to Aba county’s police bureau rang unanswered. A man who answered the phone Sunday at the Aba prefecture government said they hadn’t received any reports about a self-immolation or clashes and then hung up. People answering the phones at the lower Aba county and township governments also said they had no information.
Heavy security has turned Aba and the surrounding area into a virtual restricted zone since an anti-government uprising across Tibetan communities in 2008, and foreign reporters have had little or no access.